4. Shipwreck and meeting house

Diary 4  ·  1797–1809  ·  Mary Hardy’s last years were remarkable for the excitement and fulfilment she experienced, especially in matters involving her family and religious observance.

With her son in charge of the business she did however lose the sense of close contact with the workforce and innkeepers which is so apparent earlier.

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A loving and dutiful daughter

In November 1805 the diarist’s only daughter, 32-year-old Mary Ann, married the Nonconformist farmer Jeremiah Cozens (1766–1849). She went to live two miles north of Norwich at Sprowston. Jeremiah’s wife had died in January that year, leaving him with two very young children.

Cozens children 1816 Sprowston

A pastel by Mary Hardy’s son William c.1816 of his sister Mary Ann’s son William Hardy Cozens (left), with young William’s half-sister and half-brother Mary and Jeremiah. Like their mother Mary, the two older children died young of tuberculosis  [courtesy Reginald and Felicity Wiley]

A mutually supportive family

Mary Hardy at first felt bereft over losing her daughter’s companionship and housekeeping skills. But the diary reveals how closely the newly married couple stayed in contact with the Letheringsett family 22 miles away, compensating for this loss.

Other female relatives came to help the diarist in this mutally supportive family: keeping house threw huge demands on women in busy households.

A year after the wedding the grandchild arrived who was to carry on the family name. William Hardy Cozens (1806–95) settled at Letheringsett on his marriage in 1830, became his uncle’s heir in 1842 and adopted the name Cozens-Hardy.

The diarist’s last months were a golden time as she and her husband introduced the toddler to the estate that one day would be his.

Religious developments

Mary Hardy had the excitement of hearing the touring Anglican Evangelicals and followed them around her area.

She also visited Norwich regularly after Mary Ann’s marriage and enthusiastically took up sermon tasting at some of the Nonconformist chapels in the city. The map of 1779 at the banner marks not only the churches but the meeting houses, with their denomination.

Just before her death the diarist founded a meeting house in her village. It formed part of the Wesleyan Methodists’ Walsingham Circuit, the Letheringsett adherents worshipping on weekday evenings in the cottage of her washerwoman Elizabeth Bullock.

The diary is especially valuable in charting religious affiliation and the leadership displayed by women. The official records of the Wesleyans in this period shed little light on the subject.

Walsingham Methodist Church of 1794

Walsingham’s Methodist Chapel opened in 1794 and was the mother church of the Wesleyan circuit to which Mary Hardy belonged

A vibrant record still

Although Mary Hardy and her husband both suffered from chronic illness there is no sense from her record of a fading away or loss of spirit. The retired couple led unretired lives.

One day in 1803 gives a hint of what was afoot:

The reintroduction of income tax, also known as the property tax, with William Hardy presenting his written returns to the tax commissioners at Holt;

The review of the 104-strong corps of Holt Volunteers to determine whether they and their Prussian weapons were in readiness to protect the area should the French invade;

Also the addition by William Hardy junior, briefly an officer in that corps, of another tied house to his portfolio, the King’s Arms at Binham.

“November 8, 1803  ·  A wet morning, showery day. Mr Hardy went up to Holt about noon to meet the commissioners of the tax on property, drank tea at Mr Bartell’s [the surgeon], came home evening 9 [9 pm].

The Holt and Letheringsett Volunteers were reviewed this afternoon by a general. Raynham Rangers and Fakenham Volunteers were sent to Yarmouth to guard the coast. William went to Binham to be admitted to a public house there, came home evening past 8.”

One of the satisfactions of reading the diary is that we can check the entries against a wealth of contemporary sources. Bulletins on taxation and the Volunteers appeared in the Norwich newspapers. What General Metzner had to say in his long series of reports is housed in the Norfolk Record Office. (The Holt corps were “attentive” that day.) Admissions to copyhold property are fully minuted in manor court books. These sources are cited in the sidenotes of the published Diary.

The loss of Nelly

There was also pain and sorrow. William’s small seagoing sloop, which the Royal Navy had retaken in 1799 after the ship’s capture by a Dutch privateer, was wrecked in 1804 within sight of home. The crew were local men. No one survived. Some of the entries on Nelly are pictured under Diary Volumes.

William’s ship the Nelly was wrecked near Blakeney Pit and the whole crew consisting of the Captain John Coe, three men and one boy perished  (Mary Hardy, 1804)